DETROIT -- Drew VerHagen's relief outing was anything but crisp. Allowing five runs, it was downright disastrous, and led to the Cleveland Indians sweeping the Detroit Tigers at home for the first time since 2008. But his appearance was the result of a sudden blister on Shane Greene's right middle finger, which forced Greene from the game in the fourth inning.
After the game, manager Brad Ausmus wouldn't commit to a disabled list stint for Greene.
"If it’s up to me, I won’t go on the DL," Greene said. "But it’s not up to me."
Just before the third inning, a scab on Greene's right middle finger had showed irritation, and athletic trainers used some glue to patch Greene up. At the time, Greene said he felt fine and the team felt like the glue would hold.
Despite that, the bullpen was still alerted to Greene's situation in the event something happened. Greene has been dealing with a blister that's been healing but it hasn't prevented him from pitching. It had scabbed over, but in the fourth inning, it broke open again despite that glue, and at that point there was no way Greene could stay in the game.
On the last pitch of the first batter in the fourth, a 90 mph fastball that missed outside for a walk, Greene immediately motioned to the dugout. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and Ausmus came to the mound and video showed blood on the baseball during the huddle.
Greene had been pitching well to that point, giving up two singles and a walk until the leadoff walk in the fourth. He had a nine-pitch second and the defense got him out of a leadoff walk in the third on a 4-3 lineout.
VerHagen didn't warm up beforehand, but when he saw Greene was in trouble to start the fourth, he only needed about 10 pitches on the bullpen mound before he was ready to come out in relief. VerHagen said he could've taken longer, but it would've served no purpose.
Regardless of how VerHagen pitched in relief, he said he never takes long warming up for a relief outing, and the results were that of bad luck and his performance of the day. A groundball pitcher, VerHagen relies on his ability to keep the ball down and induce groundouts. While he was able to do that for the most part, the Cleveland Indians just found ways to punch holes in the defense.
"That's kind of what I make my living off, is being aggressive, attacking hitters, and forcing them to hit them on the ground," VerHagen said. "And if you look at the hits, most of them are on the ground. So I'll continue my approach and hope for better next time."
Asked how worn out he is after how the bullpen has been overworked, VerHagen acknowledged the 'pen has been called on more than usual, but said he hasn't tired yet. The results were less than ideal, but VerHagen said he's feeling strong and "really good."
It would be nice if the Tigers could get more strikeouts from him, but with 2.5 SO/9 this year, that doesn't play as much to VerHagen's strengths. Sunday's relief outing was fairly disastrous but one bad outing was bound to happen.
As for going to Boyd over VerHagen, that wasn't going to happen.
"Why go with Boyd? He just got called up," Ausmus said. "The truth is, VerHagen has pitched in tight situations before and if we can get through a couple innings -- 4,5 -- and get a lead, we've still got those guys at the back of the bullpen.
"Once they got some hits and had first and third, but who is better in our bullpen at getting ground balls? Well, the guy standing on the mound, Drew VerHagen."
It just happened to occur during one of the weirdest games of the year. After seeing Carlos Carrasco go down (he'll officially be placed on the DL on Monday for a left hamstring injury) and Greene exit for his blister, as well, it just seemed like one of those games where plenty was bound to go wrong. But that doesn't mean the entire season is doomed, just the series. There's always the next game.